John Davis Batchelder Collection (Library of Congr.

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noblest loyalty of Grerman character is
rooted in this passion.

Sich hiiurageben gans and eine Woime
Zu f tihlen die ewig sein mius,
Ewig, ewig —

that is German sentiment of the most
unquestionable sort. Not only do the
great names in German history — as
Luther, Lessing, Schiller, Bismarck,
and so many others — stand in a con-
spicuous manner for this thoroughly

Grerman devotion, this absorption of
the individual in some great cause or
principle, but countless unnamed men
and women are equally typical repre-
sentatives of this German virtue of self-
surrender: the housewife whose only
thought is for her family; the crafts-
man who devotes a lifetime of content-
ed obscurity to his daily work; the
scholar who foregoes official and social
distinction in unremitting pursuit of
his chosen inquiry; the official and the
soldier, who sink their personality in
imquestioning service to the State.

But a Grerman loves not cmly to sur-
render himself to a great cause or a
sacred task, he equally loves to sur-
r^ider himself to whims. He loves to
surrender to fedUbgs, to hysterias of
all sorts; he loves to merge himself in
vague and formless imaginings, in ex-
travagant and reckless experience, in
what he likes to call 'living himself
out.* And thus this same passion for
self-surrender which has produced the
greatest and noblest types of German
earnestness and devotion, has also led
to a number of paradoxical excrescences
and grotesque distortions of German
character. Nobody is more prone to
forget his better self in this so-called
' living himself out ' than the German.
Nobody can be a cruder materialist
than the Grerman who has persuaded
himself that it is his duty to unmask
the 'lie of idealism.' Nobody can be a
more relentless destroyer of all that
makes life beautiful and lovely, nobody
can be a more savage hater of religious
beliefs, of popular traditi<m, of patri-
otic instincts, than the German who
has convinced himself that by the up-
rooting of all these things he performs
the sacred task of saving society.

In literature this whimsical fanati-
cism of the German temper has made
an even development of artistic tradi-
tion, such as is found most conspicu-
ously in France, impossible. Again and

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again the course of literary develop-
ment has been interrupted by some bold
iconoclast, some unruly rebel against
established standards, some impassion-
ed denouncer of what thus far had been
considered fine and praiseworthy; so
that practically every German writer
has had to begin at the beginning, by
creating his own standards and canons
of style.

No other literature contains so
much defamation of its own achieve-
ments as German literature; no writ-
ers of any other nation have spoken
so contemptuously of their own coun-
tr3mien as German writers of the last
hundred years have spoken of theirs,
from Holderlin's characterization of the
Germans as 'barbarians, made more
barbarous by industry, learning, and re-
ligion,' to some such sayings by Nietz-
sche as, 'Wherever Germany spreads
she ruins culture'; or, 'Wagner is the
counter-poison to everything essential-
ly German; the fact theit he is a poison
too I do not deny'; or, 'The Grermans
have not the faintest idea how vulgar
they are, they are not even ashamed
of being merely Germans'; or, 'Words
fail me, I have only a look, for those
who dare to utter the name of (Joe-
the's Faust in the presence of Byron's
'Manfred; the Germans are incapable
of conceiving anything sublime.'

Is there cause for wonder, when
Germans themselves indulge in such
fanatically scurrilous vagaries about
their own people and its greatest men,
that foreigners are inclined to take
their cue from them and come to the
conclusion that Grerman literature is
after all 'merely German'?


We have considered a number of
peculiarly Grerman traits: slowness of
temper, regard for authority, distrust
of the average intellect^ bent for vague

intuitions of the infinite, defective i
of form, passion for self-surrender,
whimsical fanaticism; and we have
seen how every one of these German
traits is diametrically opposed to
American ways of thinking and feel-
ing. We cannot therefore be surprised
that the literature in which these pe-
culiarly Grerman traits find expression
should not be particularly popular in

As a matter of fact, there has been
only one period, and a brief one at that,
when German literature exercised a
marked influence upon this country,
when it even held something like a
dominant position. That was about the
middle of the nineteenth century^ the
time of Emerson, Longfellow, Hedge,
and Bayard Taylor. That was the time
when the creations of classic Grerman
literature of the days of Weimar and
Jena were welcomed and exalted by
the leaders of spiritual America as re-
velations of a higher life, of a new
and hopeful and ennobling view of the

At that time there did not exist in
America, as to-day, millions of citizens
of German birth, the great majority of
whom have little in common with the
ideals of Goethe and Schiller. At that
time the age of industrialism and im-
perialism had not dawned for Grermany.
Grermany appeared then to the intel-
lectual 61ite of America as the home of
choicest spirits, as the land of true free-
dom of thought. Wilhelm Meister and
Faust^ Jean Paul's Titan and Flegdr
jahre, Fichte's Destiny of Man, Schleier-
macher's Addresses on Religion, were
then read and reread with something
like sacred ardor by small but influ-
ential and highly cultivated circles in
Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.
And the few Germans who at that
time came to America, most of them
as political refugees and mart3Ts of the
Liberal cause, appeared as living em-

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bodiments of the gospel of humanity
contained in German literature, and
were therefore given a cordial and re-
spectful reception.

Things are very different to-day.
To be sure, the noble bronze figures of
Goethe and Schiller by Rietschel, which
stand in front of the Ducal theatre at
Weimar, also look down, in the shape of
excellent reproductions, upon multi-
tudes of Americans at San Francisco,
Cleveland, and Syracuse; and one of
the finest monuments to the genius
of Goethe ever conceived has recently
been dedicated in Chicago. But are
these monuments in reality expres-
sions of a wide sway exercised by these
two greatest German writers upon the
American people ? Are they not appeals
rather than signs of victory — appeals
above all to the Germans in this coun-
try to be loyal to the message of classic
German literature, to be loyal to the
best traditions which bind them to
the land of their ancestors, to be loyal
to the ideals in which Grermany's true
greatness is rooted?

The most encouraging aspect of the
present situation is to be found in the
study of German literature in Amer-
ican colleges and universities; for there
is not a university or a college in the
land where there are not well-trained
teachers and ardent admirers of what is
truly fine and great in German letters.
And in spite of all that has been said
to-day, there is plenty in the German
literary production of the last hundred
years which is, or at least should be, of
intense interest to Americans, — plenty
of wholesome thought, plenty of deep
feeling, plenty of soaring imagination,
plenty of spiritual treasures which are
not for one nation alone, but for all

For it is a grave mistake to assume,
as has been assumed only too often,
that, after the great epoch of Classicism
and Romanticism in the early decades

of the nineteenth century, Germany
produced but little of universal signifi-
cance, or that, after Groethe and Heine,
there were but few Germans worthy
to be mentioned side by side with the
great writers of other European coun-
tries. .True, there is no German Tolstoi,
no Grerman Ibsen, no German Zola, but
then, is there a Russian Nietzsche, or
a Norwegian Wagner, or a French Bis-
marck? Men like these — men of re-
volutionary genius, men who start new
movements and mark new epochs —
are necessarily rare, and stand isolated
among any people and at all times.

The three names mentioned indicate
that Grermany, during the last fifty
years, has contributed a goodly share of
even such men. Quite apart, however,
from such men of overshadowing gen-
ius and all-controlling power, can it be
truly said that Germany, since Goe-
the's time, has been lacking in writers
of high aim and notable attainment?

It can be stated without reservation
that, taken as a whole, the German
drama of the nineteenth century has
maintained a level of excellence su-
perior to that reached by the drama of
almost any other nation during the
same period. Schiller's WaUensiein and
TeU^ Groethe's Iphigenie and Faust,
IGeist's Prinz von Hamburgy Grillpar-
zer's Medea, Hebbel's Maria Magda^
Una and Die Nibdungen, Otto Ludwig's
Der Erbfdrster, Freytag's Die Journal-
ieten, Anzengruber's Der Metneidbatier,
Wilbrandt's Der Meister von Palmyra^
Wildenbruch's Konig Heinrich, Su-
dermann's Heimat, Hauptmann's Die
Weber and Der arme Heinrichy Hof-
mannthal's Elektra, and, in addition
to all these, the great musical dramas
of Richard Wagner — this is a cen-
tury's record of dramatic achieve-
ment of which any nation might be
proud. I doubt whether either the
French or the Russian or the Scandi-
navian stage of the nineteenth century.

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as a whole» eomes up to this^Andard.
Certainly, tke Ea^ish stage has no-
thing which can in any way be cosv-
pared with it.

That German lyric verse of the last
hundred years should have been distin-
guished by beauty of structure, depth
o( feeliDg, SAd wealth of melody, is
not to be wond^ed at if we rememb^
that this was the eeatury of the revival
of folk-song, and that it produced such
song-composes as Schubert aad Schu-
msAU and Robert Frans and Hugo
Wolf and Richard Strauss. But it
seems strange that, apart from Heine,
even the greatest of German lyric poets,
such as Platen, Lenau, Morike, Annette
von Droste, Geibel, Liliencron, Deh-
mel, Mimchhausen, Rilke, should be so
little known beyond the borders of the

The German novel of the past cen-
tury was, for a long time, imquestion-
ably inferior to both the English and
the French novel of the same ^>och.
But in the midst of much that is tire-
some and involved and artificial, there
stand out, even in the middle of the
century, wich masterpieces of charac-
terization as Otto Ludwig's Zwischen
Himmd tmd Erde and Wilhelm Raabe's
Dear Hunger Pasior; such deUghtful
revdations of genuine humcnr as Fritz
Renter's Ui mine Btromtid: such pene-
trating studies of social conditions as
GustavFreytag'sSoUun(2£ra&09(. And
during the last third of the century

thore has dearly developed a new, for-
cible, original style of German novd-

Seldom has the short story been
handled more skillfully and felicitous-
ly than by such men as Paul Heyse,
Gottfried Keller, C. F. M^er, Theodor
Storm. Seldom has the novel of tragic
import and passion been treated with
greater refinement and delicacy than
in such wcMrks as Fontanels Effi Bried^
Ricarda Huch's Jitti{o(f Ureleu, Wilhelm
von Pdienz's Der BUUaurbaiwr^ and
lAidwigThonai'n Andreas VdsL Audit
may be doubted whether, at the i»res-
ent moment, there is any country where
the novd is represented by so many
gifted writers or exhibits such exuber-
ant vitality, such sturdy truthfulness,
such seriousness of purpose, or such a
wide range of imagination, as in con-
tonporary Gr^many.

It is for the teachers of German lit-
erature in the universities and colleges
throughout the country to open the
eyes of Americans to the vast and solid
treasures contained in this storehouse
of German literary production of the
last hundred years. They are doing
thb work of enlightenment now, with
eonspicuous popular success at the uni-
versities of the Middle West. And I
look coo&i&xtiy forward to a time
whoi, as a result of this academic
instruction and propaganda, German
literature will have cc^ised to be un-
pofMilar in America.

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Ant attempt to forecast the prob-
able tend^icies of Liberal opinion in
England, wiiensoever peace shall have
been restored, most be based on the
assumption that (Jermany wfll be com-
pletdy defeated and Europe be reliev-
ed, once and for all, from the overshad-
owing menace of Pmssmn militarism.
For the ultimate issue of the present
titanic struggle resolves itself, so far as
the great mass of our wage-earners is
concented, into the question whether
the rights of men or the rights of au-
tocratic power shall hereafter domi-
nate their political and economic des-
tinies. Say what we will of the splendid
achievements of German science and
culture, the spirit which controls and
directs the life of the German people
is that of Prussia's blood-and-iron des-
potism, a spirit that frankly denies and
despises the rights of man and exalts
those of a privileged military caste.

If it were possible that the command
of the sea should now pass from Eng-
land to Germany, its passing could
mean only the substitution of mili-
tary for industrial civilization through-
out Western Europe. Liberalism, that
great force of progressive public opin-
ion which, above and beyond all party
politics, stands for freedom of social
development and ethical ideas, would
find no place of refuge on this side of
the Atlantic until that tyranny was
finally overthrown. If England were
defeated and invaded by the triumph-
ant Teuton, Liberalism, in the accepted

sense of the term, must be submerged,
for a generation at least, in the wreck
and ruin of our national life.

But it cannot be. This war can end
only with the final uprooting of the Bis-
marckian tradition and a wider free-
dom for the nations. The struggle of
armed hosts is also a conflict of vital
ideas; it is essentially a war between the
fundamental principles of autocracy
and those of democracy; and democra-
cy must triumph. It is true that in the
turmoil of conflicting impulses of na-
tionalism, Russia, an autocratic power,
finds herself ranged on the side of de-
mocracy for the furtherance of Pan-
Shiv ambitions, which, in the past, have
had little enough to do with Liberal-
ism; but the movement, and the racial
instincts of self-preservation which
have inspired it, are in themselves full
of promise for the future liberties of
Poland, Finland, and the Jewish sub-
jects of the Tsar. Russian Liberalism
cannot fail to derive a new sanction
and a new inspiraticm from the disap-
pearance of the cult of the German
War Lord, and the Russian bureau-
cracy must of necessity acquire a
broader and more humane outlook, by
virtue of its alliance with the forces
^ich stand for the liberties of the
smaller nations.

Assuming, then, that Western Eu-
rope is destined to be relieved of the
overshadowing menace of Grerman he-
gemony, it is evident that, as this war
draws to its close, the minds of thou^t-
ful men will be deeply concerned with
the social and political changes which


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must naturally follow upon so vast an
upheaval. But with regard to Great
Britain's domestic affairs (closely af-
fected as they are by the still unsolved
Irish problem and the undefined atti-
tude of the Labor party) the futiu-e of
Liberalism, and the constitution of its
leadership, must evidently depend in
no small measure on the duration of
the war.

If, as Lord iCitchener appears to ex-
pect, the struggle should be protracted
for two or three years, not only those
who now direct the nation's affairs, but
the leaders of public opinion through-
out all classes of society, will inevit-
ably approach many of our national
problems from standpoints either com-
pletely new, or greatly modified by the
psychological effect of so prolonged
a conflict. Industrial England cannot
leave its factories and warehouses for
two or three years, to follow the drum
in Belgium and France (and, let us
hope, in Germany), without acquiring
new and fruitful ideas concerning the
nation's foreign policy, alliances, and
diplomatic relations.

If, on the other hand, as many be-
lieve, the war is brought to a much
earlier conclusion, — either by the de-
feat of the German forces in the field
or by the economic exhaustion of West-
em Europe, — its effect on the labor-
ing and industrial classes in England
would naturally be less marked; in
that case. Liberalism might confident-
ly expect speedily to reorganize its po-
litical forces and reassert its domes-
tic policy on lines generally based on
those which have been laid down by the
present adminbtration. Questions of
foreign policy and of national defense
would require to be adjusted to changed
and changing conditions, but it may
safely be predicted that the nation's
chief attention would speedily revert
to matters of social legislation, to the
lesser conflicts of class interests and

party faction, unless the people itself
had learned, by the chastening disci-
pline of a prolonged struggle, that 'na-
tions, like individuals, have souls as
well as bodies.'

A short, successful war would prob-
ably tend to confirm the industrial
population of England in its somewhat
narrow outlook on life, in its well-order-
ed but unsatisfied materialism; a long
one, waged in a just cause for the great-
er freedom of democracy, could not
fail to create a higher type of intelli-
gent nationalism in the masses. Clear-
ly, then, the future of Liberalism, both
as regards its leadership and its domi-
nant principles, depends greatly on the
duration and results of the war.

But, whether it be long or short,
there can be no doubt that the memory
of these days, in which the people has
heard and answered the higher call of
patriotism in the hour of national peril,
must infuse into Liberalism, as into
Conservatbm, a broader view of the
public interest, something less paro-
chial and more truly national in its
attitude. The spirit of comradeship,
of kindly sympathy of class for class,
the common hopes and sorrows and
fears, that have united the nation to
confront a common danger, these will
not lightly be forgotten. War, despite
all its horrors, undoubtedly calls forth
in men some of the noblest virtues.
Tried in its cleansing fires, the gold of
hmnanity is purified. From this great
upheaval of all oiu* comfortable seciu'i-
ties, the nation will emerge with new
and broader conceptions of duty and
self-denial and discipline.

Our class wars will not end, but they
will surely be made less bitter, at least
diuing the life of the present generation,
by recollection of the days when dukes'
sons and cooks' sons fought side by side
in the trenches and together stormed
the deadly breach. Conservatives will
remember that, in the supreme hour of

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trial, it was the leaders of the Liberal
party, Mr. Asquith, Sir Edward Grey,
Mr. Churchill, and Mr. Lloyd George,
who upheld the nation's honor, and re-
fused to parley with the * infamous pro-
posal,' which would have bought peace
at the price of Belgium's freedom and
the utter humiliation of France. And
Liberals will remember that, when the
storm broke, there was no voice of re-
crimination or reproach from the ranks
of their political opponents, from the
men who, following Lord Roberts, had
for years urged the utter inadequacy of
the nation's military defenses.

When this war is over and done, and
civilization comes to count its appall-
ing cost, there must be a strong reac-
tion against militarism, and especially
against that which Mr. Wells calls
Kruppism; but never again, we may
be sure, will England consent to be
an unarmed nation amongst nations
in arms. Pacifists and humanitarians
will continue, as Liberals, to proclaim
their traditional principles and poli-
cies; Nonconformists and the Society
of Friends will continue to work for
the day when arbitration treaties and
mutual goodwill between the nations
shall be the guarantees of universal
peace; but Liberalism, both among the
classes and among the masses, has been
rudely awakened from dreams to the
tough world of realities. If Lord Ro-
berts lives to see England's house set
in order after this war, he should have
the satisfaction of knowing that his life
work has been crowned by the nation's
recognition of the need for national
military service, organized on an equit-
able and democratic basis.


As we look back on the record of
Liberalism in recent years, it is impos-
sible to deny that, imder the baneful
influences of the party system, many of

its noblest aspirations have been dulled
by contact with the sordid warfare of
professional politicians. The people,
while pursuing their business and their
pleasures in a narrow groove of unin-
spired commercialism, have looked on
with almost callous indifference at a
game in which principles have been
frankly subordinated to the spoils sys-
tem, and in which public honors and ti-
tles have been sold for cash, to replenish
the party funds. They have seen the
business of Parliamentary representa-
tion gradually degraded to the point
where the Labor Party naay deliberate-
ly record its vote against Labor inter-
ests, in order to keep its salaries and
its seats under a Liberal government.
They have seen vital national ques-
tions, such as the future government
of Ireland and Woman Suffrage, treat-
ed by all parties alike, not on their
merits, but as stakes in the party game
of Ins and Outs, — the splendid tradi-
tions and principles of English Liber-
alism abused as vote-winning catch-
words by a soulless caucus.

Had there been no war with Ger-
many, these growing evils must sure-
ly have been purged from the body
politic, and the nation's political con-
science awakened, by the civil strife
which the Irish question had render-
ed inevitable. Throughout all classes
of society, from the landed gentry to
the leaders of the Independent Labor
Party, a strong force of public opinion
has been steadily growing for the past
few years against the callous cynicism
of the party system. Is it too much to
hope that, strengthened and purified
by the ordeal of this war, this force of
public opinion will hereafter devote it-
self to the cleansing of the Augean sta-
bles, and that Liberalism may become
once more, as it was under Gladstone
and Bright, a definite and disinterested
solicitude for the moral and material
well-being of the people?

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Indeed, there must be good reaaon
to hope and believe that the spirit of
Liberaliam will emerge greatly invigor-
ated frcHU a strug^e which* in a few
short weeks, has brought^ome to every
one of us the truth that, in a vital cri-
sis of the nation's life, all these party
questbns, that lead us to such bitter-
ness and wasteful strife, sink into utter
insignificance. At the first breath of
a common danger, the jarring voices
of class and party faction are hushed
to] silence. The war must needs bring
great evil of sorrow and suffering to
En^and at large, but from this evil
great good will spring if it teaches the
nation that the government of the
country need not necessarily and eter-
nally be hampered by the unworthy
discords of professional agitators and
politicians. Already it has learned that,
if their patriotism and their pride are
aroused. Conservatives and Liberals
can forget their bitterest difference in
order to serve a common national pur-
pose. The lesson will not lightly be

If one may judge by the current writ-
ings of representative men, one of the
first results of this war in its effect upon
Liberal opinion must be to increase and
emphasize its hmnanitarian and paci-
fist activities. Already the keynote of
that opinion is unmistakably given in
the Liberal press. In the Nation^ the
Daily Chronicle^ the New Statestrum^
and many other influential organs, the
conclusion is unanimously voiced that
*it must never happen again.* Mr.
Wdls, in particular, stands out as

Online LibraryJohn Davis Batchelder Collection (Library of CongrThe Atlantic monthly → online text (page 93 of 120)